Hibs fans are poised to take the biggest supporter stake in a major Scottish football club with their shareholding about to pass the ten per cent mark, it was revealed today.
The Easter Road outfit’s 1700 minority shareholders held only 1.8 per cent of the club’s shares when Hibs revealed their move towards fan ownership, offering supporters the chance to take a controlling interest. They were offered up to 51 per cent of the shares in the club with the potential to raise £2.5 million, and the promise every penny spent would go to help head coach Alan Stubbs build his team.
Despite initial opposition in some quarters to Hibernian Supporters Limited (HSL), the collective ownership vehicle set up to help fans invest, the response over the past three months was today reported as “encouraging.” The Evening News understands that breaking the ten per cent barrier will put a greater percentage of shares in the hands of “ordinary fans” than at any other major club in the top two flights of Scottish football. More, it is believed, than the two Rangers supporters organisations who hold a little under ten per cent of the Ibrox club; the Well Society at Motherwell with six per cent; and Hearts, where chairwoman Ann Budge currently owns the vast majority of the Tynecastle outfit’s stock.
While HSL have built up a three-and-a-half per cent stake, individual fans have also bought into the offer, taking the combined total close to the ten per cent mark.
Kenny McAskill, chairman of HSL, said: “I am delighted by the early response of so many fans who have shown such a strong support of the collective ownership idea.
“Within just three months we have already acquired a three-and-a-half per cent stake in the club, which makes us the largest shareholder behind the holding company, and our first target of 20 per cent, which gives us board representation, is already in our sights.”
In a bid to hit the ten per cent milestone as quickly as possible, Hibs and HSL are holding a “fun and informative” Share Hibernian event in the Behind the Goals bar in the build-up to tomorrow’s match against Alloa Athletic, the final home game of the “regular” season, backed by a number of high-profile former players.
Chief executive Leeann Dempster and club directors will be present to talk to supporters and answer questions, as will directors of HSL. Trustees of the Hibernian Supporters’ Association, which recently donated £15,000 to the initiative, will also be there.
Dempster said: “If you’ve thought about buying shares in your club, but you’ve hesitated because you are unsure of how best to proceed, come along and have your questions answered simply and directly.
“At the same time supporters coming to our final home league match can be with fellow Hibs fans and share Hibs stories with some favourite players including Tony Higgins, Jackie McNamara, Ally MacLeod and Stuart Lovell.”
Meanwhile, Dempster insisted she was neither “bitter or upset” after SPFL clubs voted against changing rules on the Premiership play-off levy.
Hibs, supported by Hearts and Motherwell, had proposed that 25 per cent of gate receipt money from the six play-off fixtures should be put into a central pot rather than half.
But the move fell at the first stage when it failed to gain the support of Premiership clubs.
Dempster said: “We took a reasoned position, other members didn’t support it, we don’t feel bitter or upset by that; that is the beauty of working in an organisation such as this.”